Ireland’s Autism Charity welcomes publication of priorities for action by Minister for Special Education

 

Plan provides an important roadmap which now must be backed up with targets, investment and action

 

Thursday 24th September AsIAm, Ireland’s National Autism Charity, has welcomed the publication today of priorities for action to reform special education provision in Ireland. The priorities, published by Minister Josepha Madigan TD, Minister for Special Education and Inclusion, set out a number of key themes for reform including:

 

  • Updating the Education of Persons with Special Educational Needs (EPSEN) Act, 2004
  • Rolling out staff training in inclusive education
  • Engaging with students with disabilities 
  • Developing a School Inclusion Model including an in-school therapy service
  • Long-term planning for the provision of appropriate special class and school placements
  • Further recruitment of Special Needs Assistants

 

The Minister’s announcement is here 

 

Responding to the announcement AsIAm CEO, Adam Harris, said “The Priorities for Action announced by Minister Madigan today set out to address a number of the critical issues we have raised with the Minister, and the Department, since her appointment. In particular, it is welcome to see the Minister’s commitment to improving provision of special class and school placements and the development of a rights based, inclusive education system more generally”

 

“We have come a long way since the EPSEN Act of 2004 was passed. Autism awareness has greatly increased as have the number of children on the autism spectrum attending a mainstream school (86% of autistic students), including those in special classes. However, major gaps and disparity remain. You cannot create an inclusive education system simply by permitting students attend a school.This  requires a change in school culture, listening to the experiences of autistic students and those with other disabilities and ensuring that the supports which enable inclusion are provided as rights not privileges” he continued

 

The Minister has said these priorities for action are to be underpinned by key targets and metrics and a more detailed plan is expected to be developed, after further consultation and engagement with stakeholders.

 

“The publication of these priorities for action sets out a clear pathway forward and we warmly welcome the Minister’s recent engagement with us and reflection of our priorities. Many families will be aware that in years gone by there has been a plethora of plans, proposals and policies which have failed to be implemented, commenced or fully delivered – up to and including the EPSEN Act, 2004. That is why it is essential that the Minister and her officials now move quickly to create a costed implementation plan with key dates, milestones and targets. This plan should be developed in partnership with key stakeholders who should also be engaged in a stakeholder forum to formally provide feedback, monitor implementation and liaise directly with the Minister”

 

“Today is an important step towards a truly inclusive education system” Mr Harris concluded

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